Chapter 24: Fly Me to the Moon
When last we left our heroes, they were searching for trade goods to take on
their expedition to the land across the Endless Sea. Hopefully they'll be
able to find the home of the trader who was killed by the gray ninjas.
While the others roam around town, Kate goes to the shore looking for
impressive shells, either for trading or that can be carved. She'd
especially like some from near the mouth of the Lightfall River, since
they'd be imbued with the magic of Lanthil. Strangely, she doesn't find any
by the Lightfall mouth. But she does find some very interesting and unusual
We finish the day by topping off our supplies and then move the Pudgie Budgie from the castle to the quay.
The next day, we take deliveries of the goods.
We make the trip up to Deawen's cottage once more. When we knock, an owl lands on the ridge pole and looks down on us. Dafnord looks up at it and announces, "We're here to see Lady Deawen." The owl looks crestfallen, since it usually gets in the first word. It shrugs it's shoulders and forlornly calls, "Whooo."
The door opens, framing a smiling Deawen. "Dafnord, you're back".
"Yes. We're making preparations to go across the endless sea." Dafnord enumerates the trade goods we've been collecting. "The Pudgie Budgie is stocked. We're concerned about Tom though. We're not sure if he'll be ready to go with us. And the omniports are in a dangerous state. We wanted so see if you had any advice for us before we depart on this adventure."
Daphne tugs on Deawen's skirt and asks, "Do you know of any way we can attach Robbie to the group so he doesn't slip off again?"
Deawen thinks a bit, and then mutters, "He's just so non-physical." Daphne prompts, "The Djinn have the bottles..."
"I don't think that's at all the same thing. The Djinn, when they transform, still have a body. Even if it's gas, or a sandstorm, or something."
"What about one of those thread things?"
"It's entirely physical. What would I tie it to? I'm the last person you should talk to, since my talents don't lie in the psi realm. Jonathan would be the best one to talk to. His talents are mostly scientific uses of psi."
Daphne suggests that Robbie had a mechanical man he was playing with in Tighmark. Perhaps he could make himself a token he could return to and leave it on the Pudgie Budgie.
Robbie considers Daphne's suggestion. Since everyone is discussing him as if he wasn't there, Robbie decides to experiment. He pops out an eye, and sends it down the path. Then he wills himself to the eye. He finds himself down the path. But the eye is gone.
Robbie then pops out a second eye, and sends it back to the group by Deawen's cottage. He then closes that eye, and pops out a third eye, so he could pop between them. He closes the third eye, and tries to open the second eye... But there's no eye there.
He then tries it without closing the eyes. That works. Unfortunately, it's a limited solution. Attempts in the past to run more than two eyes at a time have caused him a headache. But it's better than nothing.
He pops out another eye and tries to shapeshift it into a miniature version of himself. Then he tries to color it. It hangs in the air; a smokefilled, vaguely man-shaped figure.
That sort of worked. So he tries to color himself. International safety orange. There's now an orange blurry shape standing next to Kate.
Markel notices MiniMe and and asks if Robbie can pick him (it?) up. Robbie reaches out a hand, and succeeds. Markel tries to take the figure from him but can't seem to get a grip on anything. There's sort of a tingle as his fingers go through the figure. Qui TK doesn't work either.
Robbie tries creating an ectoplastic shell around himself. Then levitating it to himself. Then binding it to himself. Unfortunately, when he moves, the shell remains behind.
Deawen has nothing else to add. We bid her goodbye, stop at the castle to pickup a template treaty, and pickup Tom, and head down to the Pudgie Budgie. Stevedors are loading our trade goods as we arrive. Daphne gets a set of sacks from Mr. Kaya for holding the spices she hopes to acquire, so they'll stay dry.
We look at Dafnord and ask about last, lingering goodbyes. He waves his hand casually and says, "I took care of that last night. Mr. Gannar, take us out".
And so we head out over the Endless Sea, in the deasil direction. The beaches of Lanthil give way to cliffs. The cliffs on the other side of the strait become enshrouded in mist. There's sea all around, a bank of fog to starboard, tall cliffs to port. The trader was alone in a small ship. We assume that he didn't get too far from land, so we stay close to port.
After a while, the fog starts to rise to port also. The tall streak of light of the Lightfall widens until it becomes bluish glow in the direction of Lanthil.
We continue along the coast until the cliffs are turning to mist, which is the same behavior we saw widdershins. We think we're approaching the boundary of chaos, so we we head out to starboard, over the Endless Sea. Looking aft, we see the fog banks merge together, with a dark area directly behind us. We assume the dark area is the strait we sailed out of. Kate pulls out her compass and the needle points directly to it. As we sail on, it gets darker and darker. Looking up, why there are stars! We appear to be sailing over the sea at night. We recognize a few of the constellations. But not in these relationships.
We continue sailing, and the moon rises, almost directly in front of us. It looks like Earth's moon, but Robbie can't see the lights of the lunar settlements.
Markel dowses on the trader's artifacts. He gets a reading from starboard. We change to that heading.
The moon is now well to port. As it rises, it changes from full to a half moon at 30 degrees above the horizon. Robbie still can't see the lights of the lunar settlements. But there's something there. It's very small and hard to see. Zoom in.
Markel suddenly realizes he doesn't see Robbie. Neither does Daphne. Nor does she see MiniMe. Kate tries to contact Robbie on the net. Gannar turns the ship around. Using Kate's compass as a guide, the crew starts a search spiral to find the missing crewman.
Robbie is still concentrating on the glowing areas, which are becoming clearer. And it becomes clear that he's seeing areas of color, not points like at the colonies. These seem vaguely blue, unlike the colony lights, which are kind of reddish when viewed from Earth. Robbie concentrates on making the areas resolve, when suddenly they do, nearly filling his entire field of vision. They continue to be softly focused, never entirely clear. But they resolve to be some kind of water. There are shores in the distance. Along the misty shores of the lunar sea he sees the spires of tall delicate buildings. And the sea is stretching out below him. Below him?! Wasn't he just stand on the Pudgie Budgie?
Above him are only stars. No earth below. And there's no telepathy net. Robbie reaches out to MiniMe. Oh here he is, flying in formation with Robbie. Not on the Pudgie Budgie, where he was supposed to be.
OK, stay calm. Robbie tries clicking his heels together three times and thinking, "There's no place like home". Damn. That didn't work either.
With no idea how to return to the ship, Robbie heads for the spires. There are some boats sailing in the direction of the spires. They are many times larger than the one the trader was in, with lateen sails, like the trader's boat, along with some sort of jib. The basic shape is similar, but that could be wishful thinking. Robbie heads towards the ships. There are a number of sailors who appear to be human, working the many lines that control the sails. Others are standing ready with some type of sailor equipment. There are a couple of stacks of something that's covered in some kind of cloth on the decks. Getting closer, he can see the sailors are all wearing loose fitting clothing. Many have turbans or bandanas. Dark skins, sharp featured, many striped to the waist. A group of people standing by the tiller are wearing much better clothing than the others. These look like they could be the trader's people. Unfortunately, he can't understand what they're saying. Suddenly one points towards Robbie and calls, "Captain, look!" The tallest one at the tiller follows the other's arm and looks straight at Robbie. And says to his companion, "Shameel (it's unclear), what is that?" The fellow so addressed reaches into his robes and pulls out something like a monocle, and replies "Magic, my lord."
Looking at the sailors, Robbie notices that they are proportioned like earth normal people, not like people who were raised in a low g field. Then he suddenly realizes that he understood that exchange. There's probably not much to be gained here, so he veers off towards the spires. As he sails towards the mists along the shore, he finds a city. For a civilization without aircars, this is a reasonably large city. As he gets closer, he finds that the city is quite colorful, with lots of blues and pinks and greens decorating the spires. Many of the buildings have domes. There are wharfs and several boats tied up at piers or floating just off shore.
Robbie heads towards the nearest spire, past the wharfs, and over a wall. The spire is on the edge of a large plaza. The near side of the plaza has one of the domed buildings. The spire is off to the left. Robbie recognizes nothing as writing. Most people are walking or riding horses. No automobiles, cars, etc. Oddly for a human city, there are no billboards. No trucks with signs. The city appears to be quite devoid of advertising.
Robbie lands in the plaza and goes up some stairs, under a portico and into an inner courtyard. There are many people wandering around, in groups from two to a dozen. As he enters the courtyard, conversations still and many of the people turn to look at him. He walks up to the nearest person who's staring at him, who's standing alone. The man has on a big flowing white shirt, with a sash around his waist, embroidered black on black. He's wearing a skullcap. "Excuse me my lord, can you tell me the name of this city?"
"Of course. It is called the Land of the Seventeen Spires".
"Is there a place of learning or university near here?"
"My own institute, The Library of Pearl is nearest."
"What is the special area of learning at the Library of Pearl?"
The main looks surprised. "Special area? What an odd notion. Knowledge should have no bounds."
"What area of knowledge are you most proficient in?"
The man grins modestly, "I could not claim to stand out in any area. The true sage seeks all knowledge."
Robbie tries a new tack: "I am a visitor from a far place. I was traveling with my friends and became separated."
"Oh, there are more like you?"
"Yes." Well, sort of.
"You came from the mortal lands? Had anything untoward happened recently?"
Well, yes, but Robbie doesn't want to go into his own problems. "What land is this?"
"This is the Eleventh Paradise."
"How many are there?"
The man grins. "No wonder you sought a place of learning."
Perhaps these people can help Robbie rejoin his companions. "So you know of the mortal realms... And the fay realms?"
"Yes. They don't often come here."
"My name is Robbie. How may I address you?"
"I'm known as Hassan."
"Thank you Hassan. Where would we go to find this knowledge?"
"We might start with my mentor. Is your companion coming with us?"
Hassan gestures to Robbie's left. MiniMe is floating off Robbie's left shoulder.
"Oh. That. It's an aspect of me. I can extrude bits of myself, which I can observe through. And go to, thereby absorbing them. This bit was supposed to remain on my ship. So I could return to it if I got lost. Like I am. Unfortunately, it came with me."
"How remarkable. I would have expected a different aspect. Like a body." And Hassan strides off. Robbie follows, wondering if these people know about the gray person who "idealized" him.
Dafnord looks at the moon. It's obviously an old moon. Because the last time he saw Earth's moon, he could see the lights of the lunar colonies. Markel dowses for Robbie. He gets the sense that Robbie's really not around here. He's very far away.
Robbie in his current form seems to have very little distinction between his thought and action.
Daphne asks, "Gannar, can we go there?" Daphne points at the moon.
Gannar looks started. Or as startled as he ever looks. "To the moon?!?"
"Yes, let's see how high this thing will go."
"Rise up all the way to the moon in an airship!?"
"Yes. I suspect that it's close than we think. We just have to find where it reflects in the ocean and go up that way."
Gannar just looks at her.
Daphne explains, as if to a child, "Mr. Gannar, I suspect that if we merely head aloft, we can correct our course as we go higher."
Kate asks the first reasonable question that Gannar has heard in this exchange, "Do you have oxygen sensors built into you?"
"No. Just the same feeling of stuffiness in the air you have. But I can hold a layer of air around me -- and maybe around one other person. A small person." He looks at Kate and Daphne, speculatively. "Ah... If we can get to the Moon-- that moon by airship, then running out of air shouldn't be a major problem." He looks again at the moon, changing phases hour by hour. "Not normally."
Not that "normally" has much to do with it.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.